April 3, 2014

Politico’s Nather Thinks Obamacare’s Enrollment ‘Achievement’ Hurts ‘Government Doesn’t Work’ Argument

Though he didn’t quite get to the “Shut up, he said” threshold, Politico’s David Nather, in a Tuesday tome, argued that HealthCare.gov allegedly crossing the 7 million enrollment threshold leaves opponents blubbering, and supports the argument “that government can still solve big social problems” and is “a wake-up call for Republicans and conservatives.”

It’s as if Nather believes — and maybe he does, in which case he’s woefully ignorant — that not achieving the enrollment target is about the only potential problem with HealthCare.gov. Uh, not exactly. Just off the top of my head, there’s the lack of site security, the absence of back-office interaction with insurance carriers, miscalculations of subsidies, the system’s outrageous cost, and the complete inability of enrollees to add, change or delete elements of what they submitted to correct inadvertent errors or reflect changes in their life circumstances. I’m sure that only scratches the surface. Excerpts from Nather’s nattering follow the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):

ACA critics: Homina, homina, homina


Back in the fall, conservatives seized on the flubbed Obamacare rollout as proof that President Barack Obama’s brand of liberalism doesn’t work.

Now, the law’s opponents aren’t about to say that critique was wrong — but they’ve lost the best evidence they had.

On Tuesday, Obamacare sign-ups passed 7 million, six months after the launch of a federal website that could barely sign up anybody. There are still a lot of questions about how solid that figure is, but the idea that the law could even come close to the original goal after such a disastrous start would have been laughable even a few weeks ago.

It was also a wake-up call for Republicans and conservatives, and even the occasional liberal, who pushed the argument that the failed website challenges the idea at the heart of Obama’s agenda — that government can still solve big social problems.

That’s left the critics questioning the early numbers or changing the subject. It’s a reminder that the attacks on the website were more than complaints about technology, but a proxy for a much deeper argument about what government should do and what it can’t do.

… Critics don’t think the 7 million figure will hold up, once you take out the people who haven’t paid their premiums and the ones who weren’t uninsured. And most say the Affordable Care Act is causing so many other problems — especially for people who were displaced from their previous insurance, have higher premiums than they used to pay, or face reduced work hours — that it’s a long way from being vindicated.

These problems aren’t mere examples of what “critics” say, David. They are actually known circumstances.

Let’s also note that the “other problems” include interactions with the insurance industry which are from the pencil and paper era:

… there’s a key function on the federal exchange that remains inactive: the mechanism to reconcile payments between the government and insurance companies.

This “back-end mechanism” has been missing for the entirety of open enrollment period, which launched Oct.1, meaning insurance companies have had to manually bill the government for subsidies and cost-sharing plans, a procedure that’s being dubbed an administrative nightmare.

An insurance industry source close to the matter says insurance companies have been participating in a manual workaround over the last five months, which has been “an incredibly labor intensive process.”

And we’re supposed to impressed with the wonders of government because they were able to get 7.1 million people to sign up for something which may or may not get delivered? Really, David?

Note that Nather didn’t cite current estimates of how many haven’t paid, which generally run from 10 percent to 20 percent (more lean closer to the latter than the former). If the shortfall is within that range, a rounded estimate of the legitimate number of enrollees would really be somewhere between 5.7 million and 6.4 million.

Back to Nather:

There’s also a subtle distancing that’s going on, as some conservatives argue that it was never all about the website anyway.

… “If the question was, ‘Can the government run a website?’ it might have seemed in November like the answer was, ‘No.’ And they’ve certainly recovered from that,” said (National Review’s Yuval) Levin. “The question at the heart of the debate was never, ‘Can the government run a website?’ The question is whether its approach to health economics is going to be viable.”

The reason conservatives — and libertarians, and moderates, and others of all political stripes who have seen how government works, and doesn’t work — are saying that it was never all about the web site is because, well, it never was. Among many other things, it’s about a unprecedented coercion by a government to purchase a service. It’s about 30-plus arbitrary changes to a law passed four years ago, a healthy portion of which inarguably required formal revisions passed by Congress.

But more fundamentally, and what Nather and the left want everyone to forget, it’s about President Obama’s serial and false guarantees that “If you like your plan, doctor, provider, and drug regimen, you can keep them, period.”

A Monday column in Forbes by Avik Roy referred to a yet-unreleased Rand Corporation study which estimates that estimates that “around 1/4 of exchange enrollees were previously uninsured,” while the Congressional Budget Office, in coming up with its original 7 million enrollment projection last year, “predicted (that) nearly all exchange enrollees would be previously uninsured.” In that very important sense, the administration has fallen short of the benchmark it adopted by perhaps as many as 5 million enrollees.

Of course, Politico’s Nather didn’t mention that either. Instead, he chortled about how “it was so much easier when they (opponents) could just say the federal government can’t tie its own shoelaces. Now, they have to acknowledge that the government fixed the problem — and enrollment came roaring back.”

It only came “roaring back” because Obama’s false guarantees forced his victims to buy from government-approved providers or do without. Again, why are we supposed to be impressed with this, David?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.



  1. Two extra points:

    1. My opinion is that much more than 20 percent have not paid the premium, considering the dysfunction between the reporting between the insurers and the government and the fact that if what Sibelius says is true (that most have paid) why does everyone else in the WH (including Obama) refuse to come out and say so?

    2. Since when is merely having people in a program the same as solving a “social problem?” anyway? Um, hello, don’t the end results of programs still count at Politico? Millions of people are on government programs like MediCare and food stamps, and none of it has solved crap. In fact, they’ve created more problems.

    3. We supposed to applaud the government for eventually running a website (which still has problems!) when millions of organizations and individuals do that and have done that everyday? (And most of them do it a lot better.)

    Comment by zf — April 4, 2014 @ 4:41 pm

  2. 7 million may Sound impressive, but just over 2% of the population of the U.S. (3% of adults) have signed up. That’s less than the 9,504,753 for the metro area Chicago.

    Comment by Robert Durtschi — April 6, 2014 @ 10:02 am

  3. Indeed. And only one-fourth were people who had previously been uninsured, or perhaps 4%-5% of the total uninsured population.

    Comment by Tom — April 6, 2014 @ 11:08 am

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